Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
When I was younger, my aunt Audrey attempted to teach me how to crochet. I was really good at making unintentional trapezoids and not much else. Being the kind of person who will do something well or not at all, I gave up and turned to cross-stitching to satisfy my creative urges. Thankfully, Aunt Audrey kept me supplied with her crocheted dishcloths, which I have used to wash dishes for most of my adult life. They weren’t always the most beautiful, as she likes to use whatever cotton she has on hand (or can find cheaply), but I always preferred them over store-bought cloths.
Last year, one of my “New Year’s Goals” was to learn something new. So when my friend Peg offered to teach a crochet class to our Homesteader’s League, I decided it was time to finally get the hang of it. It was kind of like riding a bike. The chaining and single and double stitches all came back to me easily. With Peg’s help, I figured out how to make a square instead of a trapezoid, and in two hours I had made my very own dishcloth!
But it was different; heavier. It looked dingy after the first time I used it. Something wasn’t right. This wasn’t like Aunt Audrey’s. May be it was just the pattern. Before I knew it, I was learning all kinds of new stitches on you-tube and trying every pattern I could find (free) online. Still not right. I grew frustrated. I gave up (again)!
One day, while cleaning out the linen drawer, I found one of Aunt Audrey’s dishcloths that I’d forgotten I had, and examined it closely. Sure enough, I discovered she didn’t use cotton yarn. She had used two strands of the (much thinner) mercerized cotton. I asked her what size (it comes in a 3 or a 10) and I got the same answer that I’ve gotten every time I ask her for a recipe. “Oh, I don’t know.” (I can tell you now that it doesn’t really matter. Use what you have on hand or can find cheaply!)
I figured if she crocheted like she cooks, I was never going to get a pattern from her, because it’s all in her head and it’s never exactly the same. Turns out, I got lucky this time. My mom had just had hip surgery and Aunt Audrey had given her several colors of mercerized cotton, along with directions, to keep her busy in her recovery. I felt like I hit the jackpot!
If you’re used to using yarn, I encourage you to try using the mercerized cotton. Here’s the “pattern”:
Using an H (or an I) hook and two strands of mercerized cotton, chain 37 (or 34 depending on your size preference). In the second chain from the hook, make a single stitch, a half-double, and a double crochet. Skip two stitches and in the next one, repeat the single, half-double, and double. Repeat until the end of the row, and make just a single crochet in the last stitch. Chain one and turn.
In the second stitch from the hook, which will be the single crochet from the prior row, start all over again with the single, half-double, double and skip two, etc.
Once you have a square, you can make a border, in the same or contrasting color. Single crochet all around (3 stitches in each corner). Then, repeat the single, half-double, double, skip two all the way around. Sometimes if I’m going around the corner, I’ll only skip one.
Mostly, I buy my cotton thread at yard sales and thrift stores, and I try to never pay more than a dollar a ball. You can also get huge rolls of white and off-white inexpensively at craft stores that offer a 40 percent off coupon. I like to use one roll of color and one roll of white. Any of my favorite cloths have been ones made with variegated color.
I’ve been making a bunch of these as Christmas gifts, along with matching scrubbies, which I’ll talk about in another post! It’s the perfect task to keep hands busy in the evenings, and if I can make crocheted dishcloths, anyone can!
Lanette Lepper is a beekeeper, chicken keeper, gardener, food preserver, and proud Navy spouse who keeps a blog.